Web Curios 25/05/18
Insert your own tedious joke about GDPR here (don't worry, there are a few of my own buried in the prose, I wouldn't want you to feel left out, after all).
SO HERE WE ARE AGAIN! HI EVERYONE! Another week of school shootings and failed diplomacy and a country that continues to lurch, wetly towards an uncertain and threatening future! We don't even have a royal wedding with which to distract ourselves this weekend, so thank GOD for the long weekend and the additional day with which to euthanise ourselves and our feelings with lovely, lovely ethanol, the most magical of potions.
As with every edition of Web Curios, there's comfortably enough material in here to see you through to the next Bank Holiday - take these three days to leisurely pick through these links, then, luxuriating the feeling of pure time passing as you continue to p1ss away the miracle of life by gazing rapt at the digital Beholder. It used to be a hobby, now it's just LIFE - WELCOME TO WEB CURIOS, ONE AND ALL!
By Adrian Piper
THE SECTION WHICH IS REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT RAFT OF EMAILS, THE ONES THAT READ “HAVE YOU BEEN EMAILED WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT? LET US HELP YOU GET COMPENSATION!”
- Facebook Political Ad Transparency Rolls Out In US: Overnight, Facebook in the US went live with its political ad archive system, whereby ‘political’ ads in the US (that is, ads that Facebook deems to be in support of a specific candidate or issue) will be archived for 7 years, with information about the Page that funded the ad and the ability for users to see all the other ads that that Page has run over the time period. This is...good. Ish. The link above takes you to a pretty kilometric Q&A with media by Facebook’s staff which covers a lot of the obvious questions on this - I confess what with it being 6:57 am at the time of writing I haven’t read it all, but there are a LOT of questions that it doesn’t do a particularly job of answering clearly, to whit a) define ‘political’, motherfcukers; and b) to what extent is the ‘who paid for this ad?’ information going to go beyond ‘this page over here’ - because, as proved by the trial version of this being used in Ireland over the past few weeks, if all this does is point people at a Facebook Page and say ‘they paid for it!’, with no requirement for said Page to have any obvious links to a named individual or organisation, then it’s pretty weak sauce all told. Oh, and, at least initially, the only information that this gives about exactly who was targeted will be age, location and gender - which frankly tells you the square root of fcuk all. I don’t mean to sound like I’m being needlessly negative here - it’s hard not to see this as very much a step in the right direction, but it is equally just a step and perhaps not quite the all-singing, all-dancing, forward-facing solution which Facebook wants us to think it is.
- Facebook Launches Customisable Ad Metrics Dashboard: This is really dull, but if you have to do a lot of reports on the performance of Facebook ads then a) I am so, so sorry; and b) this may make your life marginally less awful than it is at present (but at heart, know that everything is futile and you are still going to die).
- New Tools For FB Group Admins: The push to make Groups a core part of the Facebook ecosystem for brands continues apace, with the introduction of these new tools for Group admins, which add options such as the ability to auto-approve posts from certain Group members (effectively the ability to create tiers of privilege within Groups, rewarding power users and encouraging the community to self-police) as well as a dedicated help service for Group admins to access to give advice on, I don’t know, keeping 3,000 rabid Queer Eye fans in check. The Community resource page is actually pretty good, and contains some generally helpful principles on community management overall - worth a look, if this is your sort of thing.
- Facebook Marketplace Expands To Offer Domestic Services: Now you’ll be able to hire a cleaner on Facebook marketplace, should you be in the US at least. Plumbers, electricians and other contractors will all be able to advertise through FB; convenient, helpful, and another reason for people to NEVER LEAVE FACEBOOK EVER. On the one hand, privacy and not allowing marketers to target you based on your wants, dreams and fears; on the other, EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD ON ONE WEBSITE. Which do you think the massed ranks of two-billion meatsacks is going to choose, long term?
- Facebook Inside Feed: A new(ish) section on Facebook, collating all the information it makes public about how Newsfeed works and putting it in one place. Let’s be clear, this will tell you the square root of fcuk all about how it actually works, but if you want a whole load of largely platitudinous crap about how great the algos are then this is the section of FB for you!
- Twitter Also Launches Political Ad Rules: Again, only in the US for the moment (although it’s also confirmed that political advertising is specifically not allowed on the platform in several territories, namely Brazil, Morocco, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Pakistan), but this is similar to Facebook’s efforts; interestingly, the wording suggests this applies only to ads advocating for a particular candidate or party, rather than attempting to encompass issues-based promotions. There are similar issues with the actual extent of transparency here too - the requirement that all accounts running political ads must link to a webpage with ‘valid contact info’ is not exactly draconian in its stringency, for example - but once again it’s hard to complain about what is obviously a step in the right direction. Oh, and it’s also launching labels for tweets from electoral candidates in the US, to enable users skimming a feed to see exactly which tweets they can scroll straight past because, really, almost all politicians are utterly awful on Twitter, aren’t they?
- Paypal Integrates With Google Services: Pay directly within YouTube! Or Gmail! Again, this is US-only (I KNOW! I KNOW! You UK folk want your exciting new payment options too! SOON IT COME) but it’s doubtless a useful potential addition to your already-bulging arsenal of tools whereby you can part fools with their monies.
- GDPR Hall of Shame: Obviously none of us want to see those four letters in that order ever again, but let’s all just accept that we’ve another month or so, minimum, of breathless reporting and spam, and that’s not to even start to think about the ambulance-chasing that’s going to kick in on Monday. Still, this is a brief interlude of comedy in the otherwise arid landscape of bureaucratic tedium that GDPR has ushered in - this blog collects some of the more egregious examples of companies failing to deal with the regulation in a sensible fashion; particular shout-outs to all those companies sending out ‘stay signed up to our mailing list!’ notifications via paper post (this is actually a thing).
- Non-Standard Stock Photos: A useful Google Sheet of links to websites which provide stock photos featuring people who aren’t just your standard white faces.
- Corona WooHoo: A nice idea ruined by the fact that they didn’t go far enough with it. This is Corona, riffing off the fact that it’s a beer which can only ever be drunk in the sunshine (and even then it tastes a *touch* like detergent) and offering you (as long as you’re over 18! Christ I hate the pointless age-gating of booze websites) the chance to create your own Corona-branded, smug out-of-office gif to taunt your poor colleagues with when you fcuk off to Marbs for a week of poor-quality cocaine, Tinder and cancer-chasing. The smart bit here is the integration with email - there isn’t enough stuff like this which uses that as a channel, imho, and I like the way this integrates with Gmail or Outlook - but Christ the outputs are tedious and anodyne and feel like they have had all the fun sucked out of them by a committee of lawyers and marketing people who think of themselves as brand custodians or something equally dreadful. Shame, as the idea itself isn’t terrible (this is what we’re reduced to, isn’t it? Celebrating ideas that ‘aren’t terrible’. LIONS ALL ROUND!!).
- The Five Seasons: Finally in this section this week, another in ‘Matt’s Occasional Selection Of Preposterous Perfume Websites’ (sadly I’ve just checked and the undisputed classic of the genre, in which you got to pet a virtual leopard with Shakira, no longer exists - pour one out for Shakira’s fine-smelling feline companion, while you’re here), this is for...oh, who cares, just click and enjoy the preposterousness of the 5 droplets, each presumably representing another aspect of the fragrance’s scent profile and each labelled with ambiguous sound-words. ‘Hmm’! ‘Grr’! - WHAT DOES ‘GRR’ SMELL LIKE? WHAT DOES ‘HMM’ MEAN? WHY IS FRAGRANCE SO MYSTERIOUS? Web developers who read Curios, a question: when you get a brief for something like this, do you just cackle and go to the pub with the cheque, safe in the knowledge that you can deliver any old sh1t as long as it’s got some reasonably-shiny CGI? Because, really, that’s exactly what it looks like.
- One Question Conference - SPECIAL IMPERICA DISCOUNT TICKETS!: Oops, no, this is the final link. One Conference is, I am told by people who are significantly more professionally successful and well-regarded than me, a genuinely good conference event; the gimmick is that there are a variety of speakers, but each is approaching the same question from a differing perspective. The next one's on June 7, and we have an EXCLUSIVE IMPERICA DISCOUNT CODE to get 15% off the asking price, which is a good deal to see smart people like Rankin, Maria Pestana and my lovely former colleague Hess Walsh talk about whether or not technology has damaged the human experience (I am personally AMAZED I was not invited to talk about this as I have some STRONG FCUKING OPINIONS). Click the link and GET THEM WHILE YOU CAN.
THE SECTION WHICH WANTS YOU TO BE AWARE THAT YOU ARE ONLY RECEIVING THIS EMAIL BECAUSE YOU ASKED FOR IT IN SOME WAY AND THAT AS SUCH ALL THIS IS YOUR FAULT, PT.1:
- 50 Years Of The Swiss Charts: Or, in the original, OH SO CUTE Euro-coinage, the HIT PARADE! God, I love the term ‘hit parade’. Can we adopt it in the Anglo world, please? Anyway, I can’t imagine for a second that any of you have ever for a second wished for a navigable 3d representation of every single number one record that Switzerland has seen over the past 50 years, but what is Curios for if not to bring you the things which your subconscious always lusted for (I KNOW YOU SO WELL)? This is a really nicely-made, fun-to-play-with and, as far as I can see, totally pointless site which lets you zoom around and see all the bestselling songs from Swiss musical history in a constallation-style view; the positioning of the songs relative to others is a key which gives additional information to the song’s type, tone, time at the top, etc, and it all integrates with Spotify so you can listen to the tracks in question, and I would LOVE to see this done for the UK too so I can zoom back in time to the halcyon days of Crazy Frog.
- My Data Request: A single website offering advice and help on getting your data from 100+ websites which may hold it. From Tinder to Dropbox to Facebook and beyond, this is a really useful repository, although I get the impression that going through each and every one of these would serve mainly to prove to you exactly how awkward most web companies deliberately make it to do this sort of thing. Still, if you know anyone who’s an online privacy obsessive they will thank you for sending them this.
- Even More Digital Video Puppeteering: Another week, another terrifying glimpse into the future in which we can’t trust anything at all ever again. This is an update from Stanford University on what it’s calling ‘Deep Video Portraits’ but what I am going to more colloquially refer to as ‘that intensely creepy tech which will let you basically create a really convincing video of seemingly anyone you want saying anything you like’ - click the link, scroll to the bottom (unless you’re smarter than I am and can actually understand the technical bits) and watch, amazed, as you see quite how amazingly convincing this now is. Effectively you can train a camera on anyone and use their facial (and broader body) movements to create an avatar of, seemingly, anyone else you like - the really impressive bits of this latest iteration are all the small details such as the way the software dynamically adds realistic shadows, etc, to the generated video. Basically, as of...well, basically now, don’t trust ANYONE unless you can reach out and grab their cheeks or ruffle their hair, as their almost certainly a nefarious CG creation out to rob you. Probably.
- The Google Frida Kahlo Project: I do love the Google Cultural Institute - the bit of Google which almost makes all the hugely creepy stuff ok. This is a lovely web project in celebration of Mexico’s most famous daughter, presenting a look at Kahlo’s life, her work and her politics in a well-presented web hub with scanned paintings, sketches, writings and videos by and about the artist, offering a surprisingly deep exploration of her legacy; this is wonderful, and worth having a proper dig around.
- The Syrian Civil War Archive: Christ, the web is amazing though. Reddit user Rebel44CZ has been tracking online footage from the Syrian conflict for the past seven years; this post links to archives of all that footage, which have been downloaded and then put up online in once place as a record of the documentation of the war. This is, obviously, a whole load of really brutal footage of missiles and tanks and barrel bombs and everything you would expect; the fascinating thing about it, to me at least, is the presentation of it as a non-partisan archive of the war as-seen, collated by (presumably) a civilian, which is something I don’t think has ever really happened before. Historians of war, filmmakers and weird war-and-bomb enthusiasts will all find this fascinating.
- Gifless: Simple but HUGELY useful (fine, that might be an overstatement, but if YOU work at the coalface of the content mining industry then you will, I promise, find this helpful) webtool thingy which lets you easily and quickly make text-and-emoji-based gifs which you can download for use on social. Fine, you can do this with photoshop and a bunch of other tools, but this is SUPER simple and quick and will let you make a flashing gif saying “Click Here To Keep Receiving Our Emails!’ in seconds for some low-level numbers as we eke out the final hours of GDPR-related comedy.
- A Truly Incredible Selection of Horror, Grindhouse and Blaxploitation Films: I mean, literally that. Given that the Bank Holiday weekend is looking like being a British classic, why not resign yourself to the fact that the barbecue’s not going to happen and instead settle down to watch as many of these as you can? There are HUNDREDS of full films here - fine, most of them are, judging by the titles and the production quality, absolutely dreadful, but are you telling me that part of you doesn’t want to get quite stoned and watch a double bill of ‘Blood Orgy of the She Devils’ and ‘Good Student (feat. Hayden Pannettiere)’? NO YOU ARE NOT. Bookmark this, it is INCREDIBLE.
- Headlinertron: An EXCELLENT Twitter bot which has been trained on a bunch of stand up comedy scripts and spits out gags based on that corpus. There’s almost certainly some heavy behind-the-scenes editing going on here - I refuse to believe that this is unfiltered output - but some of the lines here are honestly better than most of the stuff you catch when you accidentally flick onto Live at the Apollo. “The pope of England is more important than me. He says... "I am sorry that I am naked..." Now I am scared of England.” - legitimately funnier than Michael McIntyre.
- The UsVsTh3m Archive: When The Mirror launched its UsVsTh3m project a few years back it was an honestly innovative and refreshing approach to online journalism - making fun stuff to suck people into the Mirror’s online ecosystem, occasionally with a current affairs-y, news-y satirical slant. They made some EXCELLENT webtoys and games, and Matt Round, who created quite a few of them, has now put them back up online on this site. Seriously, play Super Tory Boy and lose the rest of your afternoon (and remember what it was like when we could laugh at Gideon and Dave and Boris rather than looking through our fingers at the smashed remnants of the country they seem to have left us with).
- Save Family Photos: An Instagram account which asks people to send in their family photos for it to share with the wider world; if you’d like a feed of genuinely lovely photographs of families you will never know from all around the world (you would, wouldn’t you? It might make you feel less alone for a moment) then this is the account for YOU.
- We.fm: The latest in the seemingly neverending list of ‘things that we used to have in the past which people now have seemingly forgotten about and feel the need to reinvent, despite not really needing to’, this is We.fm, an app which seems to basically be attempting to reinvent radio: “The first feature we felt was necessary was live listening. It allows people to listen in-sync, at the same time, to the same song. This captures the natural behaviour of saving a song through a friend when you’re listening to music together. We take the human part of music discovery and leverage technology to make it possible wherever you are. This feature has proven to work extremely well as a means for friends to stay in touch, artists to engage their fans, and individuals to plug and discover music. It became an easy way to level emotionally together. There is something beautiful about the idea that you’re all listening to the same song at the same time, and we are doing our best to capture that.” LADS LADS LADS YOU HAVE LITERALLY INVENTED RADIO WTAF? Oh, but WITH STORIES! “We allow for users to select a 15 second clip of a song and a text caption, which they can then add to their Music Story. The clip stays in their story for 24 hours, allowing for direct personal expression through music.” Of course you do. Actually there’s almost certainly something in this, but it will never take off as a standalone app.
- The Year Online (In 1996): This is rather amazing - an archived copy of the Wall Street Journal’s ‘Year Online’ from 1996. LAUGH at the article speculating as to whether Netscape would be the company which finally toppled Microsoft! SIGH at the bit where they complain that getting reliable data about the demographics of internet users is harder than it ought to be! CRY when you realise that it’s now two decades of that mysterious gift of life bestowed upon you by forces unknown that you’ve WASTED with all this looking and clicking! God I love the web.
- Photos of Jupiter: Seriously, these are just incredible. Click and be amazed - this is a collection of shots captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which has been orbiting around Jupiter for two years now (take a moment to think how cold and lonely Juno must be, all the way out there and all by itself - poignant, isn’t it?), and they are astonishing.
- Conan Salaryman: A Twitter feed recounting the day-to-day struggles of Conan the Barbarian, reimagined as an unremarkable white-collar schmo like you or I. “There was a titanic crash as Conan, mighty thews straining, hurled his desk through the nearby window. "Tis the weekend, you dogs!" he bellowed, snatching up his bag. "Why in Crom's name are you still here?" And with that, he vaulted out the window to freedom.” Well, quite.
- Draftmap: An interesting-if-imperfect webtool, this - paste any text into the window and it will offer you up a colour-coded annotation of exactly how sh1t your writing is, from repetitious word usage to overuse of cliche. I just dumped some of Curios into it and the damn thing absolutely BODIED me, so I’m feeling personally-slighted and disinclined to give it any credit whatsoever; still, as a training tool for people wanting to brush up on their prose writing, it might be of use.
- This Is Not: A single-use site which lets you make ‘Ceci n’est pas une…’ Magritte-style images, featuring the iconic pipe and whatever copy you choose to insert. Like so, for example.
- Computer-imagined Asian Food: We’ve had computer-imagined faces; now enjoy a neural net’s imaginings of what it thinks plates of Asian food look like. There’s something very, very odd about the idea of being made actually slightly hungry looking at plates of food that don’t exist, have never existed and which bear only a very passing resemblance to anything edible I have ever seen.
- Dublin Ghost Signs: An archive of Dublin’s ghost signs, those wall-painted ads whose faded memories you can still see on the city’s walls as you walk. I adore this sort of thing, occasional windows into the past which give you an insight into the past lives of its inhabitants. There’s an Instagram and Twitter feed attached to this too, should you want regular doses of ghostly signage delivered RIGHT into your feed.
- Vines In Fortnite: Sometimes - SOMETIMES - I fcuking love The Culture. This is so perfectly post-web and modern and wonderful I might cry; a selection of some of the most iconic Vines, recreated in Fortnite using character models and voice-over and some pretty impressive manipulation of the game engine. Web culture riffing off web culture and making NEW web culture is my favourite sort of web culture.
- Leon Denise: The Twitter feed of digital artist Leon Denise, who makes wonderful, beautiful, geometric digiartgifs which you really ought to look at.
- Passprotect: An excellent idea, this; a web extension which tracks what you’re typing when you’re inputting passwords and cross-references it with haveibeenpwned to let you know automatically whether it might have been phished or hacked at any point. Simple, smart, and useful (and provided by Okta, which is a proper company and means this is unlikely to be a massive passwordgrabbing scam).
THE SECTION WHICH WANTS YOU TO BE AWARE THAT YOU ARE ONLY RECEIVING THIS EMAIL BECAUSE YOU ASKED FOR IT IN SOME WAY AND THAT AS SUCH ALL THIS IS YOUR FAULT, PT.2:
- The Music Translation Network: The third video this week which does the ‘hey, look, isn’t the future going to be a confusing place full of lies and mendacity, like now but WORSE!’ thing, this is an honestly impressive bit of prototype kit being developed in some Facebook lab somewhere; the video shows how the pseudo-AI software can take aural input and convert it to a different style of audio, seemingly seamlessly. So, for example, you could whistle a tune and the machine could convert it into, say, the same tune as though played by three bassoon and a bunch of maracas. Obviously absolutely amazing from a creative point of view, although the increasingly old man inside me does rather question whether the barriers to musical creation really need to be lowered any further.
- The RZ Collection: This is wonderful; a website for (I think) a privately-owned art collection, with all the works visible digitally through a nicely-designed interface which allows you to see individual works, or to sort them by artist. The pieces are, I think, part of the collection of Russian Sergei Shukin, although it’s not hugely easy to tell, and there’s a wealth of additional information about the pieces and the stories behind them available if you search; if you’re interested in fine art, this is a rather wonderful online space to explore.
- 400 Ways To Make A Sandwich: From 1903, this EXHAUSTIVE list of sandwiches - worth reading not only if you’re sick to fcuking death of the Pret selection and fancy taking your lunch into your own hands, but also to enjoy some of the more...baroque culinary stylings of the early 20th Century. Lemon sandwiches? Actual slices of lemon between sliced white bread? YOU ARE MAD, CULINARY PIONEERS OF THE PAST.
- Crypko: This week’s “WHY? WHY?” Blockchain idiocy is effectively an iteration of the Cryptokitties idea (you remember Cryptokitties, right? Digital cats, ON THE BLOCKCHAIN! One recently sold for over $100,000, you know), except rather than breeding virtual cats ON THE BLOCKCHAIN, you’re creating female anime avatars and effectively ‘breeding’ them to create new ones with shared characteristics of both of the parents...ON THE BLOCKCHAIN! I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY ANYONE WOULD WANT TO DO THIS. Can someone please try and explain it to me?
- Fasting Time: A simple, useful web app for Muslims observing Ramadan - this tells you in easy-to-read-at-a-glance style exactly how long you have left of the daily fast. Man, Ramadan looks HARD.
- Win Icons Chart: A Twitter bot built on another Twitter bot - seriously, some of the most interesting stuff in experimental art/performance is going to come from bot-to-bot interactions, imho - which, each time the @Win_Icons Twitter account tweets an image of an old icon from Windows pre-95, tweets an accompanying cross-stitch chart for anyone to stitch their own version. Pointless, obviously, but I very much like the bot-on-bot action.
- Fancy Pasta Bitch: God I miss blogs. Seriously, some of the best (this next bit is probably more revealing than I want it to be about my professional attitude) moments of my working life have come from discovering brand new awesome blogs back in the day and spending entire weeks totally ignoring my tedious, pointless job in favour of reading someone else’s prose. Sadly noone blogs anymore - another thing to thank social media for - which is why finding things like this is such an unexpected treat. Fancy Pasta Bitch is, as you might be able to guess, a blog about cooking pasta - no fancy photos, no recipes, just the author writing about cooking and the food she loves with a pleasing degree of blunt candour. I really, really want to make pasta this weekend.
- Listen Notes: A podcast search engine. I can’t vouch for its quality, but given the fact that podcasting now is like DJing circa 1996 (ubiquitous, tedious, and overwhelmed by the crushingly mediocre, as far as I can tell) this might prove useful in sorting the wheat from the chaff.
- Geocities Gif Bot: A bot which tweets gifs from Geocities - basically these are what became emoji in a parallel universe in which the MySpace design aesthetic stayed dominant all the way through to 2018.
- The New Yorker Recommends: Snippets of recommendations from New Yorker staff as to cultural stuff they like and you might too. From films to music to TV to books, this is a nice place to get tips on good stuff from smart people (who, FINE, are probably left-leaning liberals JUST LIKE ME; Christ my tastes are predictable).
- Twitter, Like In 2008: Twitter, it’s reasonable to say, is in many respects a horrible website. I’ve taken to not looking at it on my phone, apart from in specific instances, as I find the algo-feed so intensely misery-inducing and marginally stressful, surfacing as it does the RAGE AND THE BILE AND THE FURY AND THE OUTRAGE; Tweetdeck’s still tolerable as it forces chronology on the timeline, meaning you don’t get ALL the horror at once, but the app is a horrorshow. This little hack lets you experience Twitter as it would have been at this time 10 years ago, showing you tweets from the past from those people you follow who were using it at the time. See the difference? It’s personal, silly, unguarded, without the feel of some sort of horrifying panopticon of judgement. It was good back then, wasn’t it?
- A School, A Park: I know it’s lazy to recycle writing, but a) fcuk off and b) I don’t think I can articulate this better than I did earlier in the week. “If you were running a graphic design program in Canada in July this year, what would you want your website to look like? I can almost certainly guarantee that the answer would probably be 'not like this, at all, what the actual fcuk?'” Thanks to Dan for pointing out the horror to me.
- Tarot Stories: I am not really sure what this is - I think it’s a toy that randomly draws cards from the classic tarot deck and by so doing creates story frameworks based on the cards shown, to work as writing prompts or scenario generators or something, but by the same token it’s very hard to tell what is WILD STRANGE WEB MAJICK these days, and frankly I can’t guarantee that playing with this won’t draw something dark and eldritch into your browser so, er, caveat emptor and all that.
- Mt. St Helens: Mt St Helens is an active volcano in the US. It has a Twitter account (of course it does), which honestly has the best tone of voice of any inimate object anywhere on the web. Seriously, look at all the sass!
- Bin Badges: Pin badges, depicting the different bins of London - you may not be aware of this THRILLING FACT, but each of London’s boroughs has a slightly different style of public waste disposal receptacle (bin Curios is the BEST Curios!); these are now immortalised as lovely little enamel pin badges for you to collect (like you don’t want one, London people).
- Rejected Petitions: I didn’t realise that there was an open record of all therejected petitions submitted through the UK Government’s ‘Petitions’ portal, but there is! This Twitter feed spits them out one-by-one, so you too can share in the joy of "No confidence in the pm to deliver full brexit leadership needs a brexitier now" and other such IMPORTANT ISSUES.
- The Black Vault: For those of you who do sort of believe that the tin foil hat might not in fact be a terrible idea, this is a site collecting thousands and thousands of pages of declassified US documentation, ranging from stuff on the Kennedy assassination to all those great ways they tried to snuff Castro in the 60s. Far, far too much material to ever get through, but there are some interesting summaries of some of the juicier / weirder bits and pieces accessible from the frontpage. Seriously, though, too much of this and you’ll go full InfoWars so BE CAREFUL.
- Arthopoda Iconicus: An Insta feed posting fictional insects, designed by illustrator Richard Wilkinson and inspired by popular culture. The Death Star beetle is ACE.
- Everence: Well, this is...nice. Death is a sad parting, eh? And whilst we will always carry the memories of those we’ve lost in our minds and our hearts, sometimes we want another, more...tangible reminder of them. Previously you were limited to keeping them in an urn, or perhaps having their remains compacted into a diamond...now, though, you can go one better and have them under your skin, FOREVER! Yes, thanks to Everence, anyone’s ashes can be turned into tattoo ink, to be then used to craft whatever tasteful commemorative design you like onto your already-doubtless-crowded epidermis. Gustibus non est disputandum and all that, but...well...this just strikes me as the setup for a dark little horror short, maybe one in which someone is tortured forever when they die and their ashes are used to tattoo the name of their partner’s new lover onto said partners arm, reminding the deceased forever of how quickly their ex moved on. You can have that one for free.
- Exquisite Uterus: “The Exquisite Uterus Art of Resistance Project is a feminist art project with over 200 contributions by creative makers who have used the act of embellishing a line drawing of a uterus on plain cloth to articulate their outrage at recent increased restrictions to women’s full access to good sexual and reproductive health care and growing limitations on our ability to determine our own reproductive choices.” This seems like an apt day to post this; here’s to anyone reading Curios in Ireland today and choosing to preserve women’s reproductive rights.
- Circuits: Long-term readers may be aware that I am slightly obsessed with interactive fiction as a medium; there is SO MUCH that can be done with it, and its use as a tool for creating empathy and sympathy of feeling is, to my mind, hugely underexplored. “circuits is a narrative-based Twine game that explores what it means to try and talk about sexual trauma. The story grapples with everything that can and cannot be said, whether these stories are told online, to the media, to health care professionals, or even in legal courts” - all the trigger warnings, obvs, but this is an excellent piece of work.
- Mousepoint: A clicker game! But with no clicking! And it doesn’t last forever! This is, honestly, great. Stupid, but great.
- Dicey Dungeons: Last up this week, a truly GREAT little online dice game, combining RPG mechanics with dungeon crawling and DICE. Plays a bit like a card game but isn’t, and the soundtrack - all synthy chiptune renditions of classics like It’s Raining Men (no, no idea) - is superb too.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Sneezecount: Not technically a Tumblr! A website which counts each and every one of its owners’ sneezes along with their location. This has been going for over 10 years, and the ‘About’ section is a thing of wonder.
- Recurss: A collection of recursive css specimens - the extent to which that means anything to you will directly inform your enjoyment of this.
- Digital Since When It Was Uncool: Graphics celebrating those who’ve been into digital since the days when being into computers marked you down as the sort of lonely no-mark who women would shun forever and about who the cool kids would snigger in the corridors. WHO’S LAUGHING NOW, EH? Still the cool kids, turns out.
- Marie Loves Your Dog: ALL OF THE DOGS RUFF RUFF RUFF.
- Generate Me: Generative art and glitch work of the sort I adore. Creepy and broken, JUST LIKE ME.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
- The Joy of an Internet Ghost Town: This focuses specifically on Snapchat, with the author taking the decline in its use amongst their peer group as a jumping off point to reflect on the fact that, well, communities are often nicer when there are fewer people on them (see also the ‘Tweet like it was 2008’ link back up there) and you use them not because you have to as some of DARK BARGAIN (imagine if some malign God had offered you, back in the day, the following: “You will be able to automatically keep up with the whereabouts and actions and thoughts and feelings of all of your best friends and family, all the time, whenever you want AND you’ll be able to look at loads of really thirsty pics BUT it will also be the greatest and worst compulsion you have ever had in your life and everyone will also be watching YOU and there will never be any respite from the screaming voices”...what would YOU have chosen?). I’ve said it before and I will continue saying it like the tedious broken record I am - I DO NOT THINK WE AS A SPECIES ARE DESIGNED TO BE MASSIVELY NETWORKED LIKE THIS.
- How They Create The Sounds In Sex Scenes: Ever wondered how they make the sexy sounds of people fcuking on camera (except when they are actually fcuking, in which case I presume they just turn the mics up and leave them to it)? Well WONDER NO MORE, as we go on a journey into the somewhat surreal world of the erotic foley artist. Honestly fascinating, although you may never be able to look at a piece of chamois in the same way ever again.
- Reality TV Pitches: Tristan Cross writes for Shortlist about pitching TV shows; I’m doing a bit of work with the BBC at the moment working on development (in a very, very minor way), and I can honestly tell you that at least three of these are absolutely viable formats. Nothing can ever quite prepare you for the degree to which working in TV development is almost EXACTLY like the Alan Partridge ‘MONKEY TENNIS’ scene; if I hear one more person say “how can we take Love Island to the next level?” I will...er...continue feverishly trying to come up with ways to take Love Island to the next level, in all likelihood.
- The Lives of the Surrealists: Review of a new book by Desmond Norris, all about the lives of the surrealists. Worth it for the completely lunatic details it drops in for colour - these people were lunatics. I mean, really “He writes of Agar’s voyage with her family from Argentina to England: ‘On the journey, they were accompanied by a cow and an orchestra to provide them with fresh milk and music.’ After the war, Agar played ‘musical chairs with ex-Prime Minister Herbert Asquith – she was told she had to let him win’. Later, she refused to marry a Belgian prince ‘on the grounds that she disliked Brussels sprouts’. According to her eventual husband, she was always ‘trying to do something in a way that cannot be done, such as making love standing up in a hammock’.”
- A Little Bit of Real People: A profile of Pulitzer-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff, who spent a career writing about the poor and marginalised across the US and who has recently moved back to Detroit where he’s working in a diner and trying to make sense of Trump’s America. Slightly misty-eyed about the romanticism of the hard-nosed hack life, but a remarkable portrait nonetheless; LeDuff feels like a novel waiting to be written, and his observations on the state of the country are truly felt and well observed.
- Tramadol in Nigeria: Bleak portrait of the growing problem with opium addiction in Nigeria, and an uncomfortable reminder of the fact that we can look forward to all the social ills and uneases we’ve joyfully been coming to terms with in the Western world being replicated at pace and scale across the developing world as it catches up with, and eventually overtakes, us.
- On Internet Writing: A piece looking at the evolution of a recognisable internet ‘style’ of writing - as pointed out by Jay, this is a very white, Western idea of ‘internet style’, but there’s quite a lot of recognisable truth in this in terms of the evolution of stylistic tics and tropes which now permeate online prose; I don’t know about you, but there’s a definite meter to most professional writing online these days which I feel this piece captures rather well (though that perhaps says more about the homogeneity of my reading than anything else).
- Automation At Ocado: A fascinating look at the Ocado warehouse in Andover, where robots automate the sorting and delivery of thousands of grocery orders a day, with humans assisting around the edges. The implication here is very much of a future in which the role of us meatsacks is to keep the robots in good working order, which is exactly what Lord Wei was talking about 5 or 6 years ago when he spoke of a need for a fundamental shift in blue-collar skills training to enable young people on a more vocational career path to pursue careers in high tech support. Has anything come of this idea, though? Has it fcuk.
- Bach at the Burger King: On the use of classical music as a means of crowd control, specifically aimed at the young, and what this means in terms of the future likelihood of appreciation of the genre amongst future generations when it’s indelibly associated in the minds of kids with people not wanting them to be somewhere. It segues into a wider discussion about the role of classical and its meaning / interpretation within modern society - even for me, a man whose exposure to classical music comes from my girlfriend’s desire to listen to Radio3 on a Sunday and who only recognises the ones off the adverts, this is a really interesting read.
- Bhad Babie: Having mentioned her the other week, here’s a whole piece profiling the transformation of the Cash Me Outside kid into the very 21C media/music phenomenon that is Bhad Babie - as ever with these things, it’s pretty bleak; the most astonishing part of the whole saga is the fairly naked admission by most of the adults in this that they are seeing Miss Bregoli as cash cow to be optimised and marketed and milked and then...well, we’ll see. You can practically see the Scrooge McDuck dollar pupils in their eyes, and it’s ugly.
- The Strange History of the King Pine: The history of the pineapple is a fabulous and silly story, not least the pineapple fever which gripped England in the 18th Century, during which period the word ‘pineapple’ itself was adopted as a term of approval. Might try and bring that back, actually.
- Looking for Suburbia: A paean to British suburbia and its depiction in 20th century literature, this will be catnip for anyone who’s ever lived or grown up in the land of twitching net curtains and or experienced the strange, there-less, airless summers of the ‘burbs.
- The Secondary Scooter Market: After the bikeshare boom, the next hot thing is scooter - LA’s been apparently inundated with two wheelers which can be unlocked, hired and dumped for a charge. A fascinating side effect has been the creation of a secondary economy around the scooters, based on the rewards people can get for rounding them up at the end of the day and returning them to pickup zones; this piece looks at how that secondary market works, and some of the problems it poses (not least safety, criminality and the like). What? Tech companies coming up with ‘disruptive’ solutions without fully thinking through the potential ramifications and consequences of those solutions? HEAVEN FORFEND!
- Meet The 9.9%: This is KILOMETRIC, be warned, but as a piece of economic analysis of why we are where we are and why the young are fcuked and why income inquality may be unfixable and all sorts of other depressing things it is spectacular. Requires some thinking, though, or it did for me as I find economics HARD.
- Invisible Asymptotes: Ignore the title for a second; this is a brilliant exploration of systems and growth and what stops systems from growing (to quote the author, “invisible asymptote: a ceiling that our growth curve would bump its head against if we continued down our current path.”). This starts looking at Amazon but then moves through the major social media platforms - as a piece of thinking about business and in particular software business, this is (to me at least) very smart indeed.
- I Also Went To The Royal Wedding: A piece on what it was like being in the crowds in Windsor, through the eyes of a US reported on the ground. We...we all sound totally unhinged, don’t we? All of this, when written down and reported, is absolutely mental, not least the bit about people waving to the Queen ON A GIANT FCUKING SCREEN.
- That Jordan Peterson Interview: Witches. Culturally-enforced patriarchal monogamy. “I AM A SERIOUS PERSON”. There is a lot to enjoy in this, I suggest you get a cup of tea.
- Welcome To Your Authentic Indian Experience: A beautiful and sad sci-fi-ish (but only very lightly scifi) short story about working in a virtual Native American reenactment experience, and identity and self and ‘authenticity’ as a construct, and a whole load of other stuff. This is gorgeous.
- The Year In Trump Novel Pitches: Finally in the longreads this week, a not-that-long piece of writing by a literary agent, on why we need fiction in an age in which the now is horrible and everpresent and overwhelming. Read this and then pick a book into which you can escape this weekend - you deserve it.
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
1) First up, this is in fact 6 months old but it has practically no views and I can find no more recent videos of the band or the song, and honestly this is FCUKING GREAT. These are kids from...somewhere (look, it’s getting on and you can Google this one yourself) and this is an absolutely pitch-perfect piece of summer singalong indie pop and why it’s not been all over the radio all over the world is baffling to me. This is the (admittedly appallingly-named Ting Tang Tina with “Yellow and Blue”:
4) Sam Evian now, with “You, Forever”, which is dreamy and slackerish and the perfect soundtrack to lying on your bed in half-sunshine having a spliff while the breeze ruffles your hair and you remember that you have Monday off as well:
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! It’s not often that I feature Christian music on Curios, mainly as it’s rare that I hear any, but I’m making an exception here - this is the latest Fire in the Booth from 1Xtra, by the Hope Dealers who as far as I can tell are a Christian collective who rap about lots of the usual hiphop things with an added dose of THE RISEN CHRIST. Seriously, though, this is GOOD - give it a go (and I say this as a man who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for good exam results at the age of 17, so no proselytising going on here honest):
6) Last up this week, this is BEAUTIFUL and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s called “Palente” and it’s by Hurray for the Riffraff - it’s a beautiful 8 minutes and you should watch it all. BYE THANKS FOR READING BYE HAVE A SUPER BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND I HOPE IT DOESN’T RAIN ON YOUR BARBECUE I LOVE YOU ALL AND I HOPE YOU ARE OK AND OH GOD THIS SONG IS PLAYING NOW AND IT IS MAKING ME CRY I SHOULD STOP TYPING NOW BYE TAKE CARE BYE!: